Americans love to wave their flags. They love to hang the American flag outside of their homes, they love to have the image of the flag on cars and even on t shirts. In America, there are flag poles everywhere, the flag is flying over schools, fire stations, city halls and town offices and numerous businesses have super size flags over their stores. If this is what life is like on a typical day in America, you can imagine how much red, white and blue you will see on the fourth of July.

But here in the Netherlands, you would have to conduct a search party to find a flag. The national flag does not fly over public buildings or schools and you rarely see a flag decal on a car. 

That does not mean the Dutch are not proud of their country, but I don’t think that they think flag waving is necessary on a daily basis. What I see more as a show of national pride is the color orange. It feels like I have seen more orange in my short time here than in my entire life. Orange is the Dutch color of choice when showing pride or love of country. This country puts out their flags for very special days and I just experienced one of the biggest ones of the year.

The Netherlands was bursting with orange on Saturday, April 30 as it was Queen’s Day. It is the official celebration of the birthday of Queen Beatrix (even though her birthday is January 31 ). Each April 30 this country of 17 million citizens celebrates itself by wearing orange.  It is like a giant fair day, and the main activity is to sell old toys and household goods. People save their items all year, just waiting for this day for the big sale. Parks, public streets, parking lots are open for people to set up their tables. People sell their used items in small and big ways. Towns have their own celebrations, like parades, concerts, street parties, contests and simply dressing up. They have wonderful outdoor activities and lots of fun for  children. And there are orange shirts, balloons, streamers, and many wild and crazy people wearing orange wigs. Lots of orange painted people drinking Heineken. This is their fourth of July. And on this day, the Dutch red, white and blue flags are waving everywhere.

On Queen’s Day, most of  the royals visit a few towns each year. What impressed me about the visit I saw on TV was the number of royal family members who came out for this day and the informal way that they met and greeted the people. This is not a queen who just shakes hands and moves on to the next hand. She took her time and was very approachable. This was like nothing I had ever seen before and I have to admit that this sentimental fool, was very moved by the royals friendliness and genuine interest in the people.

Why the color orange, you ask? It is the last name of the royal family: Oranje. Remember William of Orange? There is even a special tart (cake) called Tompouce that has orange icing.  It is a traditional Dutch tart with vanilla pudding inside and for this big day, the icing is orange instead of the usual pink.

Final bit of trivia—why is Queen’s Day on April 30 when that is not her real birthday? The mother of Beatrix, Queen Juliana, was born on April 30. When she died, Beatrix decided to keep April 30 as Queen’s Day in honor of her mother and because the weather is so much nicer at the end of April than the end of January. Always practical, the Dutch are.

P.S. I admit I wore orange. Enough said.

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  • Holly Anne  On May 3, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    Hi Jane, I am so enjoying your blogs on Holland. Keep them up. WoW! Thank you.

  • Alison  On May 5, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    Officially, Queen’s Day started with Queen Wilhelmina (Juliana’s mother), but the April date started with Juliana. If Willem-Alexander keeps the tradition when he takes the throne (King’s Day?), the date will probably remain the same, since his own birthday is close to April 30, I believe. It really is a fun celebration, and it truly is nice to see how approachable and down to earth the royal family seems to be during the celebrations. Particularly nice to see after the tragedy three years ago.

  • Aledys Ver  On May 5, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    I think that Queen’s Day is the biggest and most popular celebration in the NL. I normally don’t go to the city to celebrate myself but I like following the royals “tocht” (parade) through the two cities that are chosen each year. They are really approachable and genuinely seem to have fun taking part in the people’s celebrations.

  • Loree Griffin Burns  On May 7, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    This post should have been decorated with you dressed up in orange, Jane!

    I am reading this on Mother’s Day weekend, and was touched by Queen Beatrix’s gesture to honor her mother. Lovely.


  • Judy Savage  On May 8, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Hey Jane! Do you love having a Queen??

    I just happened to reach for a pen and noticed the cup I brought back commemorating the Investiture of H.R.H. Charles Prince of Wales at Caernarvon Castle on July 1, 1969. The Royals are such a hoot!


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